Groups of Protesters Supporting Palestine and Israel Gather in Prague
One event was organised by the Not in Our Name! initiative for an equitable peace in the Middle East. Credit: Freepik.
Prague, Oct 16 (CTK) – Dozens of people gathered in the upper part of Prague’s Wenceslas Square yesterday to protest against Israel’s bombardment and forced evacuation of the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for attacks by militants from the radical Hamas movement. A group of supporters of Israel also gathered, including Defence Minister Jana Cernochova (ODS).
The event was monitored by dozens of police officers.
Other European capitals have banned pro-Palestinian rallies this week, but Prague City Hall spokesman Vit Hofman said the legal conditions for doing so had not been met in this case.
The event was organised by the Not in Our Name! initiative for an equitable peace in the Middle East. The organisers said that it aimed at honouring the memory of all victims of violence in Israel and Palestine, regardless of their origin. Collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza, they said, is not the way to end the long-standing spiral of violence, and the goal should be a mutual ceasefire, the immediate release of prisoners and the subsequent opening of negotiations towards a just settlement between the two nations.
“We demand that the bombing of Gaza be stopped immediately and that the Czech government does not support Israel in retaliatory attacks that will only cost thousands more lives and the destruction of the country,” the initiative said in a press release.
In response, a group of approximately 20 people gathered in the same square in support of Israel, including Cernochova wearing an Israeli flag.
The minister told CTK that Israel is waging a defensive war which it has been dragged into by the Palestinian radical movement Hamas and its unprecedented murder of the population.
“What happened a week ago is of course something that cannot leave a decent person cold and it cannot leave any of us in any doubt about who is in the right here,” she said. Referring to the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, she said that everyone has the right to express their opinion.
Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan (STAN) confirmed on Twitter that the event had ended without any incident, and that the police did not have to intervene. Rakusan again objected to calls to ban the event, saying legislation does not allow such a procedure.
“A real democracy respects its own laws. A true democrat can bear the presentation of a position with which they disagree. The only limit is the law. Of course, the police will continue to monitor risky events and will consistently deal with cases where the law is violated,” he said.
Immediately after the Hamas attacks on Israel, rallies were held in many European cities early last week, both in support of Israel and against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Thousands of people gathered in the streets of Paris and London to show their support for Israel. Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the Israeli embassies in London, Lisbon and Athens in support of the Palestinians and for an end to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.
This week, Hamas called for protests across the Muslim world in support of the Palestinians. The French government subsequently announced that it was banning all pro-Palestinian demonstrations and threatened to detain any organizers as ‘instigators of unrest’. According to Reuters, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban spoke similarly on public radio. Other European capitals, including Berlin and Vienna, have also banned individual pro-Palestinian demonstrations in recent days.
Hofman explained that under Czech legislation, there are only a very limited number of situations in which authorities can ban a planned rally, for example if it coincides with another event or if the announced purpose of the rally incites violence or racial segregation. However, he said that was not the case with yesterday’s gathering. He added that the city council had assessed the event as risky, and its representatives were on site and could disperse it if necessary.
“This is also due to the fact that there is a high probability of a spontaneous counter-rally in support of Israel’s actions taking place at the site,” he added.
The attacks on Israel by militants from the radical Hamas movement claimed more than 1,300 lives last Saturday. According to Reuters, many of the bodies of the dead bore the marks of torture and rape. Some had their arms, legs or heads chopped off. Israel has since been responding to the attack with massive airstrikes and shelling of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli attacks on Gaza have left over 2,300 dead, according to a Palestinian health ministry statement today. Officials from the United Nations are calling on Israel to allow aid into the territory of the Gaza Strip, and to withdraw calls for massive forced relocation of Gaza inhabitants.